In addition to being a world-renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Neil Feldstein is known for his artistry. Each year, he uses his graphic art skills to create a detailed conceptual art poster as a gift for the graduating residents. Dr. Feldstein is also gifted in the art of woodturning. Woodturning is an ancient art in which the artist studies the grain of the wood and then uses various tools to shape it into wooden objects.
Turning pieces of wood into a beautiful vase or platter requires a similar kind of patience and precision that Dr. Feldstein uses as a neurosurgeon. “I can spend countless hours in the operating room under the operating microscope. That is not so unlike the exacting work done in my woodshop where a 1/128th of an inch difference can be visualized.“ The turning process is generally a two-step procedure. First, logs of wood are cut to the desired size with a combination of chain saws and band saws. Then, the piece is mounted on a lathe, which is a machine that rotates the wood against a tool that shapes it. It is then set aside for at least 3-6 months to allow the wood to dry out to the point that it will no longer shrink or warp. The piece of wood is then remounted on the lathe for one final turn. After a final inspection and sanding, it is ready for the stain and final finish.
Dr. Feldstein admits that it’s confusing to explain how long it takes to turn a piece of wood into art, but it can be a lengthy process. “First, you have to find the right piece of wood,” he explains, “I start with green or fresh lumber that has been felled usually due to significant weather events such as severe storms with high winds. I am fortunate that some of my patients’ families have graciously gifted wood to my hobby.” He continues, “While the bulk of the turning process is several hours, the seasoning of the wood takes upwards of half a year. Once the piece is finally turned, the finishing process can also take an hour or more but this too may be spread over many consecutive days.”
Dr. Feldstein’s woodturning turned into fundraising with the donation of two of his beautiful art pieces, a two-toned wooden platter and an elegant green vase, to benefit the American Association of Neurological Surgeon’s Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation. He noted, “The more artistic turnings, as the ones submitted at our recent neurosurgical fund raiser, were stained with many layers and colors of aniline dyes and then meticulously finished with many thin coats of lacquer.”
Dr. Feldstein is primarily self-taught in the art of woodturning. Unlike his neurosurgery skills, he considers himself a novice when it comes to woodturning. “I’ve taken a bare minimum of woodworking classes.” He says that he pushes himself by learning through reading and watching videos and ultimately with hands on experiences. “I really enjoy what I do during the day and I really enjoy getting home and into my shop on the weekends to work on a project.”
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